Sports
1.8k voters

The Most Controversial Athletes in Sports History

Updated August 31, 2020 15.2k votes 1.8k voters 35.2k views66 items

List RulesAthletes in any sport that have been embroiled in controversy - domestic disputes, sex scandals, cheating accusations, anything really

Sports stars are one part celebrity, one part athlete. Like so many celebrities, some sports stars are prone to scandal. These sports stars are were involved some of the biggest controversies of all time, and many remain controversial figures to this day despite being retired.

O.J Simpson is perhaps the biggest controversial athlete of all time, for "not killing his ex-wife" in 1994. Remember when one of the best NBA players of all time, LeBron James, took his talents to South Beach? That was definitely a case of a sports star who caused controversy. And then, of course, there's Anna Kournikova, who has caused controversy simply for being beautiful.

Which athletes do you think are the most controversial of all time? What is your definition of controversy? Is it off-the-field antics like the domestic drama surrounding Tiger Woods, or is it on-the-court antics like John McEnroe's famous profane meltdowns?

Which is worse, steroids or biting off someone's ear? The choice is yours! Vote up the stars who've caused the most controversy and if we missed any scandalous athletes, add them to the controversial sport stars list!
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  • 1
    O. J. Simpson
    737
    114

    TeamsSan Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills

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  • 2
    Aaron Hernandez
    420
    135

    TeamsNew England Patriots, Florida Gators football

  • 3
    Mike Tyson
    503
    217

    Mike Tyson

    Age: 54
  • 4
    Lance Armstrong
    474
    207

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  • 5
    Tonya Harding
    366
    148

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    Tonya Harding's Real Life Was Even More Messed Up Than You Thought#414 of 595 American Public Figures Who Are National Treasures

  • 6
    Michael Vick
    380
    177

    TeamsPhiladelphia Eagles, New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Virginia Tech Hokies football

    More Michael Vick 

    #11 of 53 The Best No. 1 Overall NFL Draft Picks Of All Time, Ranked#11 of 106 The Fastest NFL Players of All Time

  • 7
    Dennis Rodman
    344
    190

    TeamsLos Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks

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    #50 of 786 The Top NBA Players Of All Time#36 of 107 The Greatest Lakers of All Time

  • 8
    Barry Bonds
    299
    159

    TeamsSan Francisco Giants, San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Pirates

    More Barry Bonds 

    #27 of 39 Longest Hitting Streaks in Baseball#101 of 142 The Greatest Left-Fielders of All Time

  • 9
    Colin Kaepernick
    302
    143

    TeamsSan Francisco 49ers, Nevada Wolf Pack football

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    #651 of 659 The Scariest Threats to the United States#162 of 252 The Best Quarterbacks Of All Time

  • 10
    Caitlyn Jenner
    328
    179

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  • 11
    Pete Rose
    239
    126

    Pete Rose

    Age: 79

    TeamsPhiladelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Reds, Montreal Expos

  • 12
    Tiger Woods
    298
    205

    More Tiger Woods 

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  • 13
    John McEnroe
    138
    70
  • 14
    Jose Canseco
    135
    73

    TeamsNew York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics

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    #455 of 582 The Greatest Baseball Players Of All Time#188 of 511 The Best Baseball Players NOT in the Hall of Fame

  • 15
    Floyd Mayweather Jr.

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  • 16
    Terrell Owens
    160
    87

    TeamsSan Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills

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  • 17
    Ray Rice
    240
    127

    Ray Rice

    Age: 33

    TeamsBaltimore Ravens, Rutgers Scarlet Knights football

  • 18
    Mark McGwire
    137
    82

    TeamsSt. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland Athletics, Oakland Athletics

  • 19
    Ray Lewis
    195
    134

    Ray Lewis

    Age: 45

    TeamsBaltimore Ravens

    More Ray Lewis 

    #2 of 64 The Best Miami Football Players of All Time#7 of 432 The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

  • 20
    Alex Rodriguez
    204
    140

    More Alex Rodriguez 

    A Complete Timeline Of J. Lo And A. Rod's Relationship#59 of 149 The Greatest New York Yankees Of All Time

  • 21
    Johnny Manziel
    203
    133

    More Johnny Manziel 

    #71 of 83 The Best Heisman Trophy Winners of All Time#9 of 329 The Most Obnoxious Athletes

  • 22
    Tom Brady
    171
    120

    Tom Brady

    Age: 43

    TeamsNew England Patriots, Michigan Wolverines football

    More Tom Brady 

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  • 23
    Lawrence Taylor
    112
    80

    TeamsNew York Giants, North Carolina Tar Heels football

    More Lawrence Taylor 

    #1261 of 1,816 The Best Athletes Of All Time#1 of 1,323 The Best Football Players Ever

  • 24
    John Rocker
    101
    66

    TeamsAtlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Devil Rays

  • 25
    Muhammad Ali
    192
    176

    More Muhammad Ali 

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